Seasons Changing; Longer, Hotter Summers for VA

Jan 24, 2018

They call Chicago ‘The City of Big Shoulders', but the State of the Virginia is becoming a state of ‘long shoulders.' Scientists are finding that our seasons of spring and fall, also known as the ‘shoulder seasons,’ are getting longer.  

Springtime 2017 Map Shows Red in places where spring came 3 weeks early last year
Credit National Phenology Network

Maybe you’ve noticed that migrating birds are showing up earlier in spring and staying longer

Winters seem shorter and summers feel steamier? Jeremy Hoffman is climate and earth scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia.  “Our last season frost is moving later into the fall and our first frost of the spring is moving later into the spring.”

Hoffman studies the work of scientists around the world who’ve tracked climate change from prehistoric times to the present and examines the data to make predictions about the future. “So, it’s really that kind of shrinking of winter time,” Hoffman said.           

Jeremy Hoffman became Virginia Science Museum's Climate Change Scientist in 2016

Hoffman grew up in the frigid Midwest and remembers the agony of walking to school when it was 10 below.  But he says, even though the mild embrace of longer shoulder seasons may seem great…

“The flip side is that our summers are becoming more aggressive and this has a direct impact. on our younger and elderly populations, who are most vulnerable."

Hoffman says longer, hotter summers lead to more heat-related illnesses, and earlier allergy seasons mean increased medical spending, not to mention extra weeks of suffering.  

The Science Museum of Virginia is working on a project exploring how different species respond to climate change. Hoffman, says that while there have always been natural variations in temperatures, the evidence shows, the last hundred years were different.

“Everything is telling us, every natural archive of environmental change is telling us how unique the last century has been, with respect to previous centuries, hundreds of thousands of years, in the case of ice cores.”   

 

And while climate change may not yet be having discernable effects on all plants, animals and insects, the most sensitive species are showing signs of suffering.  And hotter summers and shorter winters set up a kind of miss-match among those that depend on each other for survival.

“This is really different now. Whether you choose to look at the long term, maximum and minimum temperatures in a region or if you look at that more subtle kind of change that we all experience in our backyards; it really is becoming ---that climate change is driving these changes in plants and animals.” 

Hoffman will give a free lecture Thursday evening at Virginia Tech on how hotter summers and shorter winters affect wild life.  It’s titled, “Birds, Bees, Flowers and Trees.”

                                     6:30 p.m. at the Fralin Life Science Institute

                                        360 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA

            Registration for the event is not required, but space is limited to 100 people.

The Hahn Horticulture Garden, The Global Change Center and the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology are co-sponsors.